Universitatea din Iaşi în anul 1919. Un nou moment fondator după Marele Război

English title: The University of Iaşi in 1919. A New Founding Moment after the Great War

Issue: 1/2023

Pages: 81-123

Language: Romanian

Author: Cătălin BOTOŞINEANU


In a pioneering study for the historiography of Iaşi University, local professor Florea Ioncioaia remarked that, starting with 1863 – his first year as rector – Titu Maiorescu essentially re-founded the academic establishment. Even after his departure to Bucharest, during his terms as minister, Maiorescu supported the autonomous functioning of Iaşi University, at times preventing its dissolution. A providential character for the history of the establishment, he managed to etch a deeper outline of the autonomous academic existence of the Moldavian tradition of higher education.

A personality of Maiorescu`s calibre no longer arose at the university`s leadership in the period following the Great War. After almost seven decades, the patronage of the University of Bucharest and the Ministry of Instruction would seriously be questioned by the Iaşi academics. While leaving the war behind, a different academic ethos, attached to the establishment’s particular personality, would practically dominate the city’s academic life in all aspects. The “greats of the day” or the “apostle professors” of the University, as they were sometimes pejoratively named by their adversaries, would claim a different status for Moldavia’s establishment of higher education, removing it from the capital’s orbit.

At the University of Iaşi, the context heralded by the year 1919 was not clearly outlined. Behind the establishment’s daily running, inherent bureaucracy and administration, we can barely distinguish any consolidated directions of academic action. In the multitude of successive events we can identify uncertainty and a rather affective horizon of expectation gradually taking over Iași academia. Some reactions were camouflaged under the guise of patriotism, while opposing ones under techniques of feigning the typical diplomacy of a region abandoned after The Great War.

My study proposes a re-reading of the events in the University’s first year, keeping it as autonomous as possible from the baggage of the post-inter-bellum interpretations, as 1919 was marked by certain potentially highly inflammatory events for the institution. Thus, I have presented a chronology of the dominant themes of the academic and public discourse of Iași professors. The University’s rector or Senate elections, the accusations of betrayal brought to certain professors who were ultimately suspended, the institution’s budget, its administration, the issue of the student’s dormitory and, not least, the departure of professors who chose to occupy vacant positions at the University of Bucharest are the issues I chose to investigate in the following pages. These topics were raised to highlight Iași University’s new regulations and practices stemming from the particularities of the former Moldavian capital’s establishment.

I reconstituted some of the events of the University’s administrative development which escalate the social and political context of 1919, marking the debut of a long-standing debate with profound implications for the institution’s destiny. Generated by an ambiguity rooted both in a legislative void which gave way for a different understanding of the status of universities in the Romanian area, as well as in personal or group interests, the academic deliberations of Iași would generate topics that would highlight the specificity of modern Romania’s first university’s autonomy.

The end of 1919 recovered the dilemmas of the early days of new Romania. The defection of some professors from the University, by the Rector were the last clues of the state of inferiority the University of Iași had been placed in, but it had sometimes also been complicit in. The last meeting of Iași academics in 1919, longer and denser in discussions than previous ones, parted the waters, reaffirming the attachment to the individuality of the Principalities’ first university. The University of Iaşi would return to the principles of its inaugural Statutes of 1860 and appropriate a singular identity in Romanian academia. Its right to “self-manage”, stipulated by its the inaugural Statutes, became the leitmotif of Iași University’s functioning during the two inter-bellum decades. 

Keywords: The University of Iași, rector elections, institutional budget, Bessarabian students, the “Bolshevik danger”, academic recruitment

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